What do you use variegated yarn for? Well, for starters....I'm not the be all and end all of crafters, far from it, but I've made my fair share of mistakes in yarn choice, and so when a lady in my group asked for ideas of what to make with variegated yarn, I found I had quite a few projects to share. It really got me thinking, it's a secret group and there were lots of good answers and great points, but nobody outside of those 300 men and women would see it - so I knew I had to put it here.
I'm going to classify variegated yarns into two types, although there's a multitude of ways to separate them, for the purposes of this article, two will suffice. I'm going to classify them by the length of the colour changes. What is that? It's how frequently the colours change. You can take into account well blended yarns that take a while to move from one colour to the next, but really, if you work up one stitch, and the next one is a different colour, that's a short colour change indeed and makes for a much busier fabric when you are done. When you get half a dozen or more stitches that are the same colour before even a hint of the next colour, I'm going to call that a long colour change, although it's probably more precisely a medium. ;) Confused? Good. Let's start.
What not to do!It's easy enough to prattle on about what you should do for this or that, but I think that this kind of post calls for an epic fail to start with lol. Ok, maybe not an epic fail, but something that didn't turn out the way that I had imagined.
It is really important to match your yarn to your project. You don't have to use what the designer used (often it's not available where you are anyway, right?), or you want to try it in a different weight - that's fine, but really give it some thought. Close your eyes and try and picture your yarn worked up in the pattern, or if you are a clever cookie and use Ravelry, browse the projects made by others and get a feel for what YOU think works and what doesn't. At the end of the day, as the crafter, it has to satisfy you, before it leaves your hands.
Yet, the same yarn (different colourway) used in a wrap came up just gorgeous - lesson - don't use it in the round unless it's for a plain pattern or an overall effect (like one round) - or you may lose the detail.
Here's another example of losing the detail in the yarn colours - however, this was the effect I wanted to achieve. This is a floor rug for my toddler's bedroom. I wanted it fun and funky, and I'm working out the pattern to write up (I'll do another in plain colours so you can see it down the track ;) ). I didn't want the focus on the stitches, but the overall fabric, so this "Jelly Bean" style floor rug is an example of using it for effect.
Reducing the effect:
So, you've found a pattern you want to use your yarn in, but you're worried about losing some of the detail - you can counter this by working with solid colours as well. In this case, I alternated it with two of the solid colours in the variegated yarn. You can still clearly see the ripple pattern, but the edges are a little "blurred" which I rather liked. This was a baby blanket I made and the mother loved it too!
Another thing you can do is double strand (that's using two strands of yarn at once) to dull the effect - especially handy for short change yarns. This is a "mug hug" that I made for my son's teacher at Christmas. The yarn was coarse but thick, excellent for durability and insulation, but it was a little jarring on the eye when worked up. So, I had a think and worked the pattern using two strands, the variegated, and a red - one of the colours in the variegated. As the two yarns twisted and twined, the red tended to mute or block some of the changes physically, so it was a much gentler effect. Still bright and bubbly, still very warm and durable, but nothing to make you lose your lunch over. ;)
So what should you use it on?
Well, that's entirely up to you. Shawls are always a popular choice, although depending on the yarn you could end up with a load of colour in one place and sparsely in another - an imbalance if you like. Sometimes you have to just "suck it and see". The more you work with variegated yarns though, the better the feel you will get for them.
Sometimes it will work, and sometimes you'll spend an evening frogging and cursing and winding - but it's an experience you won't forget, and a lesson you will have learned.
My final tip:Never be afraid to try! You might love what you end up with, or you might hate it. I had this ball of cheap thick yarn that I bought on impulse, and then had trouble finding a use for it. Doubled up it made a great basket (I use it to hold yarn for WIP's) and with the remainder I made a beanie for my son. I called them the ugly as sin basket and beanie lol. However, the reaction in my group when I shared them was love. We're all different. ;)
Sometimes, if you're very very lucky, you can fluke the perfect match. I made this swatch yesterday. If I had a million years I couldn't do it again lol. This is tunisian gobelin stitch, and I thought I would try it to see how it looked with this short change yarn. What luck when I realised that with the random number of stitches that I chose, that I had made the exact correct length so that the colour changes occur on the ends of the rows, and that each row is repeated eventually to make a very deliberate looking fabric. I'm thrilled to bits with how this looks and I'm now working out what to do with the pattern for the rest of the ball. So go on, give it a try, and be open to frogging and finding something else, or, finding that perfect thing first go and sitting back and enjoying some intentional or unintentional beauty! <3